Attention deer hunters of Wisconsin — major changes are on their way following the release of the final report from Dr. James Kroll on Tuesday.
The 136-page report has been dubbed “the reset button” by Kroll who says, “If we’re going to continue to have the hunting heritage in Wisconsin, we’re going to have to do this.” Kroll’s biggest fear with the current state of the deer management in Wisconsin is that if changes aren’t made now then management of the state’s deer herd will fall victim to political interests.
There are dozens of recommendations in Kroll’s report and some are fairly basic. Kroll suggests simplifying regulations for hunters and only making changes every five years. Keeping it simple goes for the DNR as well. Kroll would like to see simplified goal statements for managing the deer population such as increase, stabilize or decrease the population density.
Working with landowners is another point on Kroll’s agenda and he suggests working with landowners to manage the herd with the establishment of a Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) to allow landowners to increase or decrease the number of deer on their property by controlling the number of antler-less permits for specific lands. Landowners would also be looked at as a resource of information for the DNR and expected to provide feedback on their local herd.
Change, however, isn’t free. To help pay for some of the new programs and new positions, Kroll suggests raising the price of antler-less permits to $12. Additionally, he recommends a more passive approach to CWD where it’s known to exist and focusing on detecting where the disease is spreading. This would help focus the efforts of the strained resources at the DNR, putting the organization in a more productive position.
Another hot topic was the crossbow season which Kroll suggests should be resolved through a public involvement process — I guess Kroll knows better than to stir the pot with this issue at a time when other states are fighting to keep crossbows out of archery season.
While it may seem like all the rules are changing, there are some regulations that will remain such as the limit of one buck per Deer Gun License and one buck per Archery Deer License. This is one rule I really like and I wish we had here in New York. The one-buck limit is crucial to a well-balanced age structure in a deer herd. It forces hunters to make a choice — shoot the first buck they see or wait for a big mature buck. Most hunters wait for the mature buck and the number of yearling bucks killed each year drops.
Kroll and his team have come up with a lot of options for the DNR to choose from. What gets enacted and what doesn’t remains to be seen. At the end of the day, though, Kroll says the DNR needs to “put the fun back into hunting.” Maybe it really is just that simple.